The State Political Directorate was the secret police of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) and the Soviet Union from 1922 until 1934. Formed from the Cheka, the Soviet state security organization, on February 6, 1922, it was initially known under the Russian abbreviation GPU for "Gosudarstvennoye Politicheskoye Upravlenie of the NKVD of the RSFSR" (Государственное Политическое Управление НКВД РСФСР).
On paper, the new agency was supposed to act with more restraint than the Cheka. For instance, unlike the Cheka, it didn't have the right to arrest and shoot suspected "counterrevolutionaries" at will.
The 'Foreign Department' of the GPU was headed by a former Bolshevik and party member, Mikhail Trilisser. The Foreign Department was placed in charge of intelligence activities overseas, including espionage and liquidation of 'enemies of the people.' Trilisser himself was later liquidated by Stalin during the Great Purge in 1940.
With the creation of the USSR in December 1922, a unified organization was required to exercise control over state security throughout the new union. Thus, on November 15, 1923, the GPU left the Russian NKVD and was transferred into the all-union Joint State Political Directorate, also translated as "All-Union State Political Administration". Its official name was "Ob'edinennoe Gosudarstvennoe Politicheskoe Upravlenie under the SNK of the USSR" (Объединённое государственное политическое управление при СНК СССР), or OGPU (ОГПУ).
Perhaps the most spectacular success of the GPU/OGPU was the Trust Operation of 1924-1925. OGPU agents contacted émigrés in western Europe and pretended to be representatives of a large group working to overthrow of the communist regime, known as the "Trust". Exiled Russians gave the Trust large sums of money and supplies, as did foreign intelligence agencies. The Trust finally succeeded in luring one of the leading anti-Communist operators, Sidney Reilly, into Russia to meet with the Trust. Once he was in Russia, he was captured and killed. The Trust was dissolved, and it became a large propaganda success.
From 1927 to 1929, the GPU engaged in intensive investigations of an opposition coup. Josef Stalin soon made a public decree that any and all opposition views should be considered dangerous and gave the GPU the authority to seek out hostile elements. This led to the Shakhty Trial in March of 1928, that prosecuted a group of industrial saboteurs involved in a hostile bourgeois conspiracy. This would be the first of many show trials during Stalin's Five Year Plan.
The OGPU was responsible for the creation of the Gulag system. It also became the Soviet government's arm for the persecution of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Greek Catholics, the Latin Catholics, Islam and other religious organizations, an operation headed by Yevgeny Tuchkov. The OGPU was also the principal secret police agency responsible for the detection, arrest, and liquidation of anarchists and other dissident left-wing factions in the early Soviet Union.
The OGPU was reincorporated into the newly-created all-union NKVD in July 1934, becoming the Main Directorate of State Security (GUGB) of the People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD) of the USSR. Its final transformation was into the more widely known Committee for State Security (KGB).